Approaches That Enhance Industry Certification Examinations

We live in a culture where emerging technologies are rapidly changing our everyday lives. Mobile technologies enable us to stay connected and communicate from remote locations; digital video recorders and streaming video allow us more flexibility in viewing entertainment; social networking websites connect us with other professionals in our field. The testing and assessment community is no different. The future of the industry is dependent on cutting-edge technologies that can provide a host of benefits that will make our lives easier and improve the quality and effectiveness of our exams. While some solutions provide better indicators of candidate skills and abilities, other smart technologies curb cheating and improve the confidence the public can place on an individual's credentials. Association executives should be thinking about how to begin leveraging these and other new technologies and techniques as they will likely serve as the cornerstone of the certification industry's future. Below are just three of these exciting opportunities that are likely to transform the testing and assessment field:

  • Linear on the Fly Testing (LOFT) – This solution is a dynamic forms generation model that utilizes "Item Response Theory" statistics to produce an individually assembled exam for each candidate. LOFT generates a virtually unique testing experience for each and every exam candidate, making the memorization of significant portions of the overall item bank extremely difficult. LOFT also dynamically adjusts the item selection routine to prevent individual items from becoming over exposed and more effectively utilize all of the available items. Assembling an exam form, 'on the fly' at the beginning of the test ensures that each candidate receives a unique test experience, making "brain dump" sharing virtually impossible.
  • Item Banking – For associations that are writing and developing items for certification exams, the ability to simplify and streamline the process is a welcomed change. A smart test-item banking tool – such as Prometric's ProBuilder – provides substantial financial, administrative and time efficiencies. Web-based, test-item banking increases item writer productivity, reduces item development costs, creates more effective item pools, shortens turnaround cycles and enhances test validity. Consequentially, changing, refreshing or creating test items for existing or new exams occurs in a faster, more secure environment.
  • Performance-Based Testing – Assessing a candidate's ability to actually perform specific tasks or activities can be an important supplement to traditional knowledge-based multiple choice items. In recent years this has been accomplished through simulations of real-world activities. More recently the concept of emulation-based testing, in which candidates interact with the actual software applications used 'on the job', has generated a great deal of interest. Internet technology and server virtualization is making this emerging concept viable for today's testing programs.

How will these changes improve the stature of industry certification? Most testing programs today are built on the use of multiple choice or knowledge-based items. While effective, they are also susceptible to the behaviors of unscrupulous candidates trying to cheat their way to certification. Incorporating performance based items into tests is a good way to render brain dump sites largely ineffective, as the candidate needs to physically perform job-related tasks, thereby demonstrating practical, real world skills and abilities. As performance based tests can be pricey a prudent approach may be to supplement multiple choice items with performance-based items. This can improve the overall value of the exam while making it virtually impossible for a candidate to pass the test without a thorough understanding of the material.

Luckily, the future of testing will increasingly incorporate different item types and more performance based elements than ever before. Smartly applying technology, such as implementing LOFT or Performance-based items, better protects candidates and test owners from cheating, guaranteeing that those individuals who pass a test did so based on a true and accurate measure of their skill and knowledge. These forms of assessment allow professionals who possess the skills – no matter how they were obtained – to prove their knowledge and earn credibility. Thanks to the new tools available in the testing industry, the future of testing is bright.

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